Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Tightens Controls over Internet, But Those Affected Directed to Workarounds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 4 – The Russian authorities are putting ever more pressure on the Internet in the hopes of imposing Kremlin control on the last relatively free segment of the Russian media, but their efforts are being countered by those most affected who are offering what they describe as “very easy” workarounds so that those who want to visit banned sites can.

            As reported in today’s “Vedomosti,” the Agora Human Rights Association says that the number of extra-judicial restrictions of Internet sites in Russia increased by 50 percent in 2013 from a year earlier, a move that affects ever more Russians since nearly half use the Internet on a daily basis (vedomosti.ru/politics/news/22253001/blokiruyuschij-god#ixzz2sKii8rrE).

            In 2011, Agora says, there were 500 cases of such restriction of Internet freedom in the Russian Federation. In 2012, there were 1197, and in 2013, there were 1832. And those figures do not include blocked sites. Among the sites now blocked are not only those containing child pornography, information on how to commit suicide, and the use of drugs, the authorities are also now blocking sites that they conclude, without the judgment of a court, have pirated content. 

            Of even great concern, Agora continues, is the use of “administrative pressure” against Internet media in order to convince them not to carry political materials the Russian authorities disapprove of, such as materials about the Pussy Riot case, or other stories that the authorities classify as “extremism,” a term without precise legal definition.

            Such pressure, the Agora investigators say, is likely to lead some sites to “migrate” to foreign jurisdictions but it is also having another effect.  Confident that Russians are increasingly computer savvy, at least some Russian sites are now providing guidance on workarounds so that those who want to visit them can even if they are blocked.

            One such site is RONS, “Russia Will Be Liberated by Ourselves.” It provided detailed guidance on how its nationalist followers can go to whatever sites they like regardless of what Moscow does.  Doing so, it said, is “not just easy but very easy,” an indication that the competition between offense and defense in this area too is going to continue to heat up (http://ronsslav.com/kak-oboyti-blokirovku-zapreshhennyh-saytov/).

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